Shin Lim

The AGT Finals Trick


Shin Lim performed this amazing illusion in the finals of the 2018 season of America's Got Talent. As you can imagine, he left the best trick for the end. His magical performance was so unbelievable that he not only astounded the judges and the audience, but also won!

So, let's look at the trick that won the season 13 of America's Got Talent!

Shin Lim first asks Tyra to roll a pair of dice. She rolls 4 and 5. When you add 4 and 5 you get 9. Shin shows that all the cards he is holding in his hand have the number 9. He then asks Tyra to pick a suite, and she picks Hearts. So the selected card is 9 of Hearts. With a snap of his fingers, Shin Lim turns all the cards into 9 of Hearts.

He then continues to produce numerous new cards (all of them 9 of Hearts) in many different amazing ways. He even turns a 6 of Hearts into a 9 of Hearts. The whole thing is incredible.

As a grand finale, he makes a huge amount of cards levitate and dance in the air. At the end, most of the cards fall to the ground, and the ones remaining form a shape of a big number 9 and a big heart symbol.

The whole performance is amazing, from beginning to the end. Watch it if you haven't seen it yet, and then check out the explanation below.


So, how did he do it? It seems quite incredible, right? But trust us, there are no actual magical abilities involved, only a lot of skill and many clever tricks.

Most of this illusion is based on sleight-of-hand magic, which is hard to explain to someone which is not a magician. So let's start with more basic things which will help you understand the main mysteries of this trick.

First thing you have to understand is that Tyra didn't really freely pick the 9 of Hearts. The 9 of Hearts was picked by Shin Lim before the actual performance, and the whole performance was designed around this card from the beginning. But the selection of the card appears to be a mix of randomness (the dice roll) and free choice (Tyra picking Hearts). How is this possible?

Let's start with the dice. Tyra rolls two dice and gets 4 and 5, which when added give us 9. However, notice that we never actually see the dice up close. After she rolls them, Tyra, picks them up and very carefully shows them to the camera so we only see one side of each dice. Why doesn't the camera simply come close enough to record the dice roll in the first place? This is a giveaway that there is trickery involved.

The reason that we never see the dice in full is very simple. They are not normal dice. They are clever gimmicks, designed to always give the sum of 9. One of the dice only has the number 4 on every side, and the other has 5 on every side. So the sum will always be 9 regardless of how you roll them. Smart!

But surely Tyra will notice this and call him out?

This brings us to another important part of the trick. You have to understand that Tyra is in on the trick. She doesn't call him out because she is basically acting as his assistant. This also explains why she picked Hearts. It was not a free choice, Shin Lim told her beforehand which suit she should pick and she agreed to do it. She wants the show to be good and is more than happy to help. She is not there to bust and expose magicians, she is there to help create a good entertainment program. That is her job. So you should not see her as a spectator, but basically as Shin Lim's magic assistant. Not only does she not call him out on using gimmicked dice, she is actively helping him with the trick.

How does he make the cards appear on the table out of nowhere?

Notice that he actually makes them »appear« not on the table, but on the piece of black cloth. The cards are actually already there (remember, he knew that the 'selected' card will be 9 of Hearts) but covered with smaller pieces of black cloth. As he hovers his hand over the card, he pulls down the piece of cloth, revealing the card below. This creates the illusion that the card just appeared out of nowhere.

But how does he make the cards disappear?

The backs of the cards are black, same color as the cloth. To make them 'disappear', he simply turns them around.

How does he make the cards levitate and dance in the air?

The cards are attached to many very thin wires, and manipulated from the backstage by either human assistants or a machine.

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